Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators
Brilliant three-year-olds Swingband, The Miki Taker and Tricky Miki are sharing the limelight in early pre-race discussions on the opening event, the 2130m Noah George Fundraiser Night Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night, but ace reinsman Shannon Suvaljko is full of hope that he will drive Hoppys Way to victory to bring up his 100TH winner for the season.
Suvaljko, who has driven a hundred winners in a season nine times, plans to take full advantage of the prized No. 1 barrier in a bid for an all-the-way victory with the Mike Reed-trained Hoppys Way, who notched his seventh win from 19 starts when he began brilliantly from the outside barrier (No. 8), set the pace and won from Goodfellaz and Maungatahi over 2536m last Friday week.
“He does his best racing in front, and this week from the inside barrier he won’t have to burn off the gate like he did from the outside at his latest start,” said Suvaljko. “That’s really not his go.
“Hoppys Way will be out in front, and he can roll along. He is probably better suited over the 2130m than over 2536m. This is a good field, but he will step up to good horses like The Miki Taker and Tricky Miki. He should have an edge in fitness over them. He loves to roll along in front and he will give them something to chase.”
The Miki Taker, trained and driven by Aiden De Campo, and Tricky Miki, to be driven by Gary Hall Jnr for trainer Justin Prentice, have scored splendid first-up wins after a spell, and along with Swingband (to be driven by Michael Grantham for trainer Ryan Bell) their clash with Hoppys Way and other talented three-year-olds should provide plenty of fireworks.
The Miki Taker will start from barrier two, with Tricky Miki at No. 3 and Swingband at No. 4.
The Miki Taker notched his eighth win from 16 starts when he raced in fourth position in an Indian file affair and was eased off the pegs with 700m to travel before surging home to get up and win narrowly from the pacemaker Onesmartfella at a 1.57.3 rate over 2100m at Bunbury on Wednesday of last week. He sprinted over the final quarters in 26.56sec. and 27.66sec.
“This is a good field on Friday night, with few of the better ones coming back, heading forward to the group 1 events,” said De Campo. “The Miki Taker was impressive first-up, and went a bit better than I expected. Normally, he takes a couple of runs to get to his top. He ran only a half but it was quite quick (54.2sec.), and he got the job done.”
Tricky Miki took his record to four wins from eight starts when he flew home to snatch a dramatic last-stride victory over Rockstar Rebel over 2100m at Bunbury three Fridays ago.
He raced in the one-out, one-back position before being shuffled back to seventh with 250m to travel, and was still sixth, out four wide, at the 100m. He then unleashed a dazzling late sprint. He dashed over the final 400m sections in 28.8sec. and 27.3sec.
“It’s a cracking race coming up,” said Hall. “Tricky Miki went super at Bunbury and I’ll be guided by Justin regarding how I drive him this week, and how aggressive he wants to be. My gut feeling is that he’ll tell me to use his closing speed, which is his main asset. This is the start of a long preparation which is a long way off the grand final.”
Swingband, a winner at nine of his 15 starts, will be appearing for the first time since he led from barrier two and won the group 2 Pearl Classic for three-year-olds on May 13. That was his sixth win from his past eight starts, with his other successes being in the Group 2 Sales Classic, the Group 2 Gold Bullion and the Group 3 Caduceus Club Classic.
“Swingband’s form stands out a bit,” said Bell. “He is pretty forward in fitness, and he will need to see the mobile to really bring him on and to show his sharpness. It is probably good that the three good ones drawn inside of him will do what they want to do.
“The main aim on Friday night is to see Swingband hit the line hard. There are bigger fish to fry, and Friday night is just the starting point. I am very happy with his work.”